Sunday, December 16, 2007

Which of his fellow Republicans will Lt. Gov. Bohlinger endorse?

Reading that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will be endorsing Sen. John McCain for President, we got to musing about bipartisanship.

Lieberman is truly bipartisan -- he caucuses with Democrats, giving them their majority in the U.S. Senate (as an independent, he could caucus with Republicans, giving them the majority, if he chose) and yet he frequently votes with Republicans, especially on national security issues. And he is endorsing a Republican for President.

Which of course got us to thinking about our own bipartisan Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, wondering about which of our competitive statewide races he will choose for his expression of bipartisanship. You know -- which of his fellow Republicans will he endorse and campaign for?

To make it meaningful, it has to be competitive.

We know that Rehberg is going to win in a walk (even if the Dems can actually find a candidate to be their sacrificial lamb,) so that one won't count. And while we would love to see Republican John Bohlinger endorse Republican Roy Brown for governor, we realize that there would be a certain conflict of self-interest for Bohlinger.

How about State Auditor? It should be a competitive race between Republican Duane Grimes and Democrat Monica Lindeen. Both have good name recognition from previous statewide races. Bohlinger could endorse Grimes and while he is on the stump campaigning for the gov/lt. gov ticket around the state, he could urge his supporters to vote Republican in the Auditor race.

He could also send out mailers in some of the swing districts that lean Democrat right here in Yellowstone County, endorsing the Republicans in those legislative races.

If Lt. Gov. Bohlinger were to play a role in tipping a close statewide race to the Republicans, or help the GOP pick up a couple of legislative seats in Yellowstone County, Montana Headlines would lead the charge in urging the GOP to forgive and forget, certifying his Republican credentials.

It would be a start, wouldn't it?

Addendum: We note that David Crisp over at Billings Blog kindly linked to our last Bohlinger post, but felt that we missed the point that Bohlinger is popular (we'll take Crisp's word for it that Bohlinger is indeed popular) precisely because people are sick of partisanship and mistrust it.

True enough, as far as it goes. And we would be the first also to acknowledge that the Montana GOP could, from the beginning, have dealt with the Bohlinger defection in a more creative and constructive way. In other words, not all of the estrangement is Bohlinger's fault.

The problem is that Lt. Gov. Bohlinger wants some of the benefits of a partisan label, while accepting none of the responsibilities, so far as we can tell.

Far from opting out of partisanship, Bohlinger explicitly wants to embrace the name "Republican," and expects that some people will vote for his ticket precisely because of the fact that there is a Republican on it.

Now one can reject the traditional conservative argument (first articulated by ur-conservative Edmund Burke) that "responsible party" is necessary to the orderly operation of government. And one can certainly accept that some may feel that one or the other (or both) of the major American parties are no longer "responsible" in any meaningful sense of the word.

But regardless, it seems that the two broad choices that face a politician are either to reject partisan labels and become independent (as with Joe Lieberman) or to remain within a party and work with it -- which means accepting at least some of the responsibilities of party membership.

When we revisit this issue (as we will doubtless continue to do,) it is not in a spirit of hating John Bohlinger -- it is in the spirit of inviting him to take up some of those responsibilities, and offering suggestions on how he could do so in a meaningful way.


Anonymous said...

Excellent ideas, as always. If Bohlinger is going to talk the talk, he has to walk the walk.

And, as you say, it isn't a matter of hating Bohlinger. He has put the onus on himself. It is put up or shut up time. And if he can't start fully embracing GOP candidates, well, that will speak volumes.

David Crisp is correct that the American public is fed up with highly partisan politics. No doubt about it.

But oddly, what Crisp seems not to consider is the possibility that this administration is cynically playing the "bipartisan" card for political purposes. Perhaps Crisp should spend a few days interviewing state legislators and state employees and the like and find out how much bipartisanship is really being practiced. It would be nice to see a return to the kind of skeptical reporting approach we had when Martz was in office.

Montana Headlines said...

Ideally, a person in a position of prominence in a party will support the entire slate of candidates.

We suspect Gov. Schweitzer will support every Democrat from U.S. Senate to County Treasurer -- statewide.

We would imagine that Rep. Rehberg will do the same for Republicans, and that he will use no small part of his ample warchest for GOTV efforts that will benefit all Republicans.

We realize that it would be too much to ask Lt. Gov. Bohlinger to do likewise for his party -- the Republican party.

But we think that if an independent like Joe Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats in Washington, can endorse a Republican for a critical position like the Presidency -- surely a Republican like the Lt. Gov. could bring himself to endorse at least a handful of fellow Republicans who find themselves in close races against Democrats.

As to bipartisanship in Helena -- our coverage of the last regular and special session spelled out in detail exactly how much bipartisan spirit of compromise we saw coming out of the executive branch. Zero.

Why the media didn't highlight the refusal of this "bipartisan" executive branch to come to some sort of meaningful compromise with the Republican House -- well, that is a good question.

Mind you, the Dems didn't need to compromise -- they held all of the important cards. But how they handled it, starting from the executive branch, was as ferociously partisan as it gets. If Lt. Gov. Bohlinger has been a bipartisan "uniter, not a divider" up in Helena -- we've missed it somehow.

Dave Rye said...

In 2004, the list of "Montana Women for Kerry" (or some similarly-named group) contained the usual suspects, plus Bette Bohlinger. Perhaps Bette was on her own on that one, and of course we can't ask her anymore, but I doubt that she was acting independently of any conversation with her husband about the subject. Media people should ask Jumpin' John which Repubs (if any) he voted for in '04, and which ones he plans to support in '08.

Nell said...

What about 2006? Did Bohlinger support or campaign for any Republicans running last cycle?

I do know that Bohlinger did go door to door with Shirley McDermott - the Republican who ran against Kendall Van Dyk in Billings. However, many people felt that McDermott was a Democrat herself...

so who knows?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Bohlinger can answer for how his late wife voted, but surely, if he is a "certified" Republican, he can point to some significant financial contributions to party organizations or candidates over the past three years. Surely he could cite a number of Republicans he has helped get appointed to state boards or state jobs in recent years. Surely he can identify parts of the GOP platform that he has made sure were reflected in the administration's legislative programs.

I really hope Crisp or other reporters ask for the evidence, because when I talk to state legislators or friends who work for state government in Helena, they laugh and say this whole "bipartisan" thing is a sham. They say this group is one of the most partisan they've ever seen.

The only reason the public thinks these guys are bipartisan is because the press keeps calling them that--based only on Bohlinger's claim that he is "Republican"--without bothering to look into how partisan these guys really are.

Viola said...

Perhaps Dave Rye could give us a Republican litmus test. Meanwhile, from the Oct. 30, 2006 Billings Gazette: "(Bohlinger) went door-to-door in Billings with Republican Shirley McDermott, who's running in a key House race that Democrats hope to win, thus picking up a seat."

Anonymous said...

Bohlinger, as a former small business owner, shares many Republican attitudes about labor - that might be his main attraction to the party. But he is a longstanding moderate. The problem is that the Republican Party has gone so deep and far to the right that moderates are scared off. John would never have done what he did in the 1980's. This all started in the 90's - you guys went loony, and left John behind.

Anonymous said...

So Bohlinger shares many GOP attitudes toward labor? What attitudes are those? Has he opposed increases in the minimum wage? Has he supported right-to-work legislation? What exactly are the GOP-backed bills he has supported?